The Real Sgian Dubh Co. produce hand-crafted sgian dubhs in natural materials of horn, silver and steel. Their goal is to provide a genuine, beautiful and affordable alternative to mass produced plastic. Alastair Seaman explains how it all began …..
I’d just turned 18 and like many Scotsmen was getting a full highland outfit to mark my “coming of age”. My younger sisters clubbed together to buy my sgian dubh and, having always been fascinated by knives and craft, I was really excited to finally get my hands on this symbol of Scottish manhood.
With apologies to my wonderful sisters, I remember trying to hide my disappointment as I held the machine-produced plasticky thing in my hands, with a blade that I could have bent with my teeth and its fake ‘Cairngorm’ stone. It was no sadness to lose the dubh within a year.
The week after my wedding I was in the wonderful Orkney Isles on my honeymoon. My love of natural materials and real craft took me to visit several Orkney artisans, including to the workshop of the famous silver jeweller Sheila Fleet. The place was so quiet that we were able to chat to Sheila – and as our conversation developed she asked me what kind of craft I was interested in and what I liked making. I confessed to having minimal craft skills myself – but in a throwaway comment mentioned that perhaps in my retirement I might have a go at making a couple of sgian dubhs. ‘I think you should’ she said. A seed was sown.
Years later I found myself working in the Himalayas for a Christian health and development charity. I came across the famous Kukuri knife carried by Gurkha soldiers and, intrigued, I ended up staying in a village of knife-makers to watch how they crafted these awesome knives.
I realised that these guys could make me a ‘real sgian dubh’ – and worked with them to produce a simple knife that I could wear with pride. I got a few more made as gifts for friends – and the requests and orders just kept coming. Ten years later we send real sgian dubhs to exiled Scots around the world from Canada to New Zealand.
Our knives are made with patterned ‘Damascus steel’, horn from the domesticated water buffalo that’s kept by millions of small farmers for milk production, and Sterling Silver, hallmarked by the Edinburgh Assay Office.
Each knife is hand-crafted and unique. We are committed to paying our makers a living wage and a £5 donation from each purchase goes towards health and development work in Nepal.
Check out our beautiful knives at www.sgiandubh.scot. Discounts are available for purchase of 3 knives or more.